Pulling up to the 7-11 for a quick Slurpee fix, I eye Dude in the Red Shirt, sitting on a milk crate as he prepares to pounce on me with some type of line once I get out of my car. One hand smoking a cigarette, the other hand grasping a cup, foot tapping to the new Junkyard I’m blasting, he seems capable of gainful employment to me. But what do I know? Not able to judge him or his circumstances, I’m still not giving him no money. I have long been turned off by panhandlers, particularly the ones that walk straight past grown men to approach me and my several kids for money. What once was a lucrative come up for people in need has turned into a practice described as inconvenient, unsafe and illegal across some borders surrounding DC. The guilty feeling on my conscience as I fill my Slurpee cup pondering if he really needs help doesn’t help the situation.
I can discuss panhandlers gone wild all day and why I’m not giving them my hard earned money, but it takes a lot of courage and pride swallowing to ask for assistance. With this being the holiday season I would really like to impress upon being a cheerful giver. Panhandlers? Sure we’re unsure, but we all personally know of someone in need. We all know someone whose circumstances, whatever they are or stem from limit their ability to enjoy the holiday season. We all know someone whose issues have prevented them from living comfortably, from being able to maintain, from being able to hold their head up, weighed down and fatigued with worry. We all know someone who has had their hours cut but still has to pay that high child support in full or who has to choose between the essential things such as food or gas, diapers or rent, medical bills or tuition; tough choices in a tough economy during the holiday season is tough.
“What can I do?” You ask. Good question. That $40 that you spend just to cut that line at the Go-Go when no one is inside anyway would make a world of a difference to someone who is trying to gas up in order to get back and forth to work all week. Those bottles you’re popping would feed a family of four for a month. So why not take a minute, weigh your abilities and options and help a brother or sister out. Not a bottle popper? That’s okay too. There are plenty of legit food pantries accepting donations, reputable agencies accepting toys and gifts for children, hospitals accepting blood donors or any time that you may have wrapping gifts or serving food. It doesn’t take a lot of money or time to make a difference in another person’s life. Aside from solidifying your role as a social citizen, religious or not, cheerful giving has been proven to be contagious and it enhances the holiday spirit.
Approaching the door of the 7-11, Dude in the Red Shirt asks “What’s up sis, you got some change?” “Of course I do.” I reply. “I’ll be right back.” Upon my exit from the 7-11, I approached Dude in the Red Shirt, handed him a Slurpee and a dollar. “Oh dag sis, you could’ve just gave me the money for the Slurpee.” He responded taking the Slurpee and the dollar out of my hand and sitting back down on his milk crate.
-Photo courtesy of chicagoist.